My Mother in the Present Moment
Immigrant Stories, Immigrant Lives
My name is Indira Ramos. I was eleven years old when I met my mother for the first time. This event took place at Logan Airport, when I was arriving from Cabo Verde. It was a difficult moment in my life, because I was told my mother was dead. Entering the moment I am describing I didn’t know if she was my real mother or not.
They told me my mother was dead — my father told me this. I’m guessing that he told us this because she went to live in the United States, and he was raising us alone. So, he told us we didn’t have a mother, and that she was dead.
Years earlier my father had to leave to go to Cuba. He was a bodyguard for the President of Cabo Verde, and the President was visiting Fidel Castro in Cuba. I was only eight years old. My brother and me were sent to live with my aunt.
It was a long time since the last time we saw our aunt. She asked us, “How is your mother?”
We said, “We don’t have a mother, our mother is dead.”
And she said, “Your mother is not dead. Who told you that your mother is dead?’ So, our aunt told us that she would prove to us that our mother was not dead. She went to the local store and bought a phone card, and she called “my mother” in the US. At least that‘s who she told us she was reaching on the other end of the phone.
I got on the phone and spoke to this stranger. While I was on the phone my aunt showed us a picture of this woman who she said was our mother. So, I told “my mother” that my father told us that she was dead. “My mother,” was shocked. And then after that, we were speaking to this person regularly on the phone back at my aunt’s house.
Later, my father came back from Cuba. We never told him that we had been talking to someone who our aunt told us was “our mother.”
Shortly after his return, my father asked us if we would like to go to the United States. We asked him “Why do you suggest that we go there?”
“Because,” he said, my job is in and out of the country, so it is better if you go live with your mother.”
Naturally, this did not correspond with what he had been telling us all along: “But you said that our mother was dead?!”
So, we decided to come to the US. We found out the truth. He apologized to us. He admitted to us that what he was putting in our minds was inappropriate.
After that I had to leave school in Cabo Verde to come to the US. I didn’t have a chance to tell my friends “good-bye.”
We flew across the Atlantic Ocean and landed in Boston, Massachusetts, at Logan Airport. My aunt had shown me a picture of my mother when she was younger. But, when we walked through the airport I saw this woman who was dressed in black, and she was crying. She looked older than the woman in the picture but my body told me, “This is your mother.”
I ran to her and embraced her and called her “Mommy,” and in this moment she knew that she still had a place in my heart. My brother never shares his feelings, so he didn’t show that much emotion. It’s hard to tell what’s on his mind. Upon seeing his mother for the first time in many years (after thinking that she was dead), he had very little outward reaction.
“Mommy” took us home. She showed us gifts she had been saving for us. She told us that she had sent presents for us to Cabo Verde. She asked, “Did you receive these things?” “Who did your father say sent these gifts to you?”
We told her that he said they came from an “estrangeire.” This is a Cabo Verde Creole word referring to someone from another country, an immigrant.
At her home she fed us. Then after, we were having a truth telling meditation. A lot of truth came out. The stories our father told us put our mother in a bad light. These stories made it sound as if our mother was not living right when she was alive.
But our mother was very much alive and right all along. She explained that she came to the U.S. for a better future. It was in the moment when my eyes met her tearful eyes in the airport that I knew we were together, creating a better present for our family.